Ever heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Unfortunately, as an author, this is not a saying you should be taking to heart. Cover images are very important for the first impression your book gives to a reader. If you slap on a cover that took you twenty seconds to make in MS Paint, your potential readers will notice and assume the book is of similar quality. However, if you put some effort into making a quality cover, it gives readers that extra confidence in you and they are more willing to part with their hard-earned money.
Choosing an image
Surprisingly, you can get very good royalty-free pictures to use as cover images at a very low cost. Here are some of the best stock photo websites I’ve found:
- Dollar Photo Club: The cheapest I could find, and it has a pretty decent selection. It’s a members-only site, but you can get a membership pretty easy.
- Shutterstock: My go-to place for high quality images. As far as I can tell, they have the best selection. They are on the higher end of price range though and I only use them when I absolutely must have an image exclusive to them.
- Bigstock: These guys have a free trial period so you can try it out. They have a pretty big selection too, but are also fairly expensive compared to Dollar Photo Club.
- DepositPhotos, Fotolia, iStock and CanStock: I’ve never used them, but I’m including them here to supply you with additional options.
A great tip for choosing a good cover image is to browse through the stock images quickly. If one catches your eye, chances are it will catch a reader’s eye, too. But don’t rely strictly on this! There are certain characteristics that readers of a particular genre will be looking for. For example, if you’re writing a sweet romance story you’ll be better off with bright images that scream HAPPINESS! If you’re writing a dark thriller, stick to darker images.
You have to know what your reader is looking for. The easiest way to discover what works is to browse the best sellers list for your genre on Amazon and take a look at what is already working.
Choosing a font
Fonts are also incredibly important. The font you choose says a lot about a book. I can’t possibly go over how to choose a good font here for every genre, but I’ll touch on the method I use.
For me, the best way to choose a font is to browse through dafont. They let you preview the font with your given text before you download so you can see it before downloading it and trying it yourself. You can also narrow your search down to search for 100% free fonts if you’re wanting to save money. You just need to make sure the font is free for commercial use (a lot of them are free for personal use only). Download a few good ones and see which one looks best on the cover.
In order to create the actual cover, you will need some software. Everyone usually recommends Photoshop, but it’s very expensive. If you can’t afford it, some good free alternatives include GIMP and pixlr express. Of the two, pixlr express is definitely more beginner friendly. GIMP can get complicated!
Get some feedback on your cover
So now you have your first cover, but you’re unsure of how good it looks. Reddit’s /r/coverdesign group is a very talented free resource. These guys will tear your cover apart and tell you everything you need to fix. You just show them your cover and they tell you how to improve. After using them for a few different covers, you will start to get the hang of it.
Paying someone else to do it
Of course, not everyone has the eye for design. It’s tough to be both a talented writer and a visual artist! If you just can’t get something that looks good enough, there are a myriad of talented individuals out there ready to take your money in exchange for giving your book a beautiful first impression on readers.
I’d warn against forking out a ton of cash on covers to start though, especially if you’re going to be following all of the advice I lay out in the article on why it’s better for authors to start short. You’ll go broke paying someone $100 per cover on short stories while you’re learning!